What started out being a great evening at the Blair County Ballpark, turned into a huge black eye for the Altoona Curve, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Lozinak family.
Fans gathered by the thousands from western, central and eastern Pennsylvania to the Curve home opener, most to get what was supposed to be a free autograph from Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker LaMarr Woodley.
Upon my arrival at 5:25 (gates are supposed to open one hour before game time), I found myself around 1000 deep in line from the table where Woodley would be signing. No big deal, I thought. The Curve's Web site read that he (Woodley) would be signing during the game.
Then, to our surprise, we were told that Woodley would only be signing from 7:15 until 8:20. Myself and the others standing around knew we were going to be pushing it to get to Woodley, who we thought was going to be there during the entire game.
I thought to myself: I just drove over two hours for this autograph (I've been collecting autographs for 26 years), I'm going to stick it out. I thought my patience was going to pay off as the security folks kept saying "you'll be OK, but we don't know about those on back there" (looking to the anxious fans waiting about 100 people after us).
So we waited and waited and waited and just when we were about 10 feet from the ribbon where Woodley was signing, the security guards shut the line off. I was one of about 2000 fans remaining in the line that was in shock, disgusted and angry.
Blair County Ballpark officials knew Woodley was only going to sign for one hour, but yet they gave the fans the misconception that they were going to get an autograph from him. Many of us stood in line over three hours and many drove well over two hours to get to the ballpark.
Upon leaving the ballpark immediately after being shut off in line, disgusted and not looking forward to my 2 hour ride home, a group of us decided to ask for our money back, since we knew all along that the Curve officials knew Woodley was going to sign for only one hour.
We spoke to the ticket office, and then Curve General Manager Rob Egan came up to talk to us. No refund.
If that's the way this organization is going to conduct business, I and many other former fans will have to find somewhere else to spend our hard-earned money. Many of us came for a nice relaxing evening at the game and most of us left with a very, very sour taste in our mouths.
It's going to be a long, long time before I bring my family back to Blair County Ballpark, and I'm quite sure that I'm not the only one that thinks that way.
Represent Steelers with class
The Altoona Curve opener was the worst game I've ever attended.
I didn't even get to take my seat for the game until the eighth inning because I stood in line for three hours and 20 minutes to get LaMarr Woodley's autograph, only to be turned away just as I got to the signing table.
He only signed autographs for one hour and left as fans booed him and a little girl of about 7 years old was in tears because she waited patiently for an autograph and was also denied.
Steeler fans who paid top dollar for a No. 56 Woodley jersey in line behind me were also snubbed.
It's mid-April, so it isn't like he is going to be late for mini-camp or has a curfew of some kind.
So what could be more important than showing your appreciation to the diehard fans who spend their hard-earned money to support you and your big-money contract?
If Woodley should get to read this note, my suggestion is this: Re-evaluate your priorities and represent your organization and fans with the gratitude they deserve.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are a class act, so act accordingly.
If you insist on bugging out early in your stretch limo with your entourage in tow while fans boo and kids cry, go play for the Raiders.
I waited four hours for Kevin Greene's autograph just before his appearance in Super Bowl XXX, and he didn't leave until everyone who wanted an autograph got one.
Now that's a class act.
Cover other teams, too
Every time I look in the newspaper there are articles about the Pittsburgh teams like the Pirates.
I am all right with that, but there should also be stories about other teams mostly because the Pirates haven't had a winning season in like forever, and not many people really like them even if they are their home team.
I think if there were more articles about other teams more people would pay more attention to the paper.
I know I would.